Japanese Robots: Celebrating the Life of Dr. Kanako Miura

Kanako Miura - AkihabaraNews.com

Today, per the Japanese tradition of marking the one year anniversary of an individual's death, known as the Meinichi (めいにち・命日), we remember the life and accomplishments of brilliant young roboticist Dr. Kanako Miura, lost in a terrible accident one year ago today. Our original article was published May 29, 2013. 

• • •

While riding her bike on Sunday, May 19th, at approximately 3:30pm, highly accomplished and well regarded robotics researcher Dr. Kanako Miura was struck by a large truck near Charlesgate Park in the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Miura, 36, died at the scene. Official reports conclude that it was simply a terrible accident on a busy road.

Dr. Kanako Miura, Roboticist 
A guest of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr. Miura arrived last October for what was planned to be year of research at the world-class MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). She had been invited to share her pioneering work on improving the understanding of human bipedal locomotion and applying that practical knowledge to advanced humanoids, i.e., Dr. Miura made robots that walk like us.

“She was really part of the fabric of our group. She was not just a visitor in our group, she became a close friend and a member of our family. The energy she brought to her work was contagious, and her enthusiasm was easy to see. She loved giving tours, and showing off the lab, and she had an unfailing optimism in the future and importance of humanoid robots.” 
-Professor Russ Tedrake, Director; Center for Robotics, CSAIL

Dr. Miura held a B.E. in Aerospace Engineering and an M.E. and Ph.D. in Information Science from prestigious Tohoku University. She also earned an additional Ph.D. in Electronics and Automation from equally renowned Université Louis-Pasteur in 2004. Such certifications alone evidence a formidable intellect; factoring in the linguistic challenges between Japanese, French, and English – well, that pushes the dial up a bit further.

The considerable expertise Dr. Miura brought to MIT arose from post-doctoral research at Tohoku University, a subsequent research position with communications giant NTT Docomo, and her eventual ascent to senior researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in the Intelligent Systems Research Institute’s Humanoid Robotics Department.

While at AIST, Dr. Miura worked on the world-famous HRP-4C Future Dream robot (nicknamed “Miim,” from the Japanese). You might not know the name, but chances are you’ve seen photos or video of the agile and strikingly human robot:

HRP-4C has also “met” with the highest levels of foreign government:

With the above robot as the platform and Dr. Miura as the lead researcher, the AIST team made several valuable and distinct contributions to mobility and agility in humanoid robotics. The video below, for example, demonstrates the “slip turn” motion. “Slip turn” is very human-like movement that allows a biped to rapidly change direction with minimal change in body orientation. How is this an advancement? Well, think about the baby steps a robot like ASIMO has to take when changing direction, as opposed to this:

Another project led by Dr. Miura was the development of a more human-like gait for bipedal robots. When we walk, movement in the pelvis precipitates and works in conjunction with movement in the knees. A natural human step ends with the back foot balancing and pushing off the toe, and this leads to the standard leg-swing motion of the human stride. Here’s that recreated in robot form – and again, sorry ASIMO, but your flat-footed shuffling must yield:

Dr. Miura also led a project that would allow a robot to mimic human movement based on motion capture technology.

After contributing so much to her field, in addition to eventually being courted for the year of study and collaboration at MIT, she was also recognized here at home with the 2010 AIST President Award:

Such is the noble reality of robotics research. No single person can crank out a perfect human facsimile, and there are no Tony Starks – there are researchers like Dr. Miura, diligently working through small but profound iterations and laying the foundation for generations of robotics research to follow.

Unfortunately, no one at AkihabaraNews or Anthrobotic.com knew or had ever met Dr. Miura. However, through the words of Professor Tedrake and other public and private discussions, it is easy to appreciate that she was not only a brilliant and motivated scholar, but also a warm and engaging person. How we wish to have had the pleasure of interacting with such a comprehensive intellect.

Though something small, we hope it a fitting memorial to share her work here. That awareness of her contributions might inspire others toward learning about robotics, engineering, or science of any kind, is a fitting legacy.

Seems safe to assume she’d agree.

• • •

Materials & Resources:
Boston Police Twitter; Boston Police Department; Universal Hub; Boston.com; MIT News; CSAIL Computer Science and AI Laboratory News; IsolateCyclist Blog; Fenway-Kenmore Patch; Worldjournal.com (Chinese); IT Media (Japanese/日本語)

Photos: LinkedIn; AIST; The White House

Source: 

Related Articles

Lego MINDSTORMS EV3 Guy!

Lego MINDSTORMS Projejects!
They once had little to do with actual robotics, but two product iterations and 15 years later, about to release their 3rd-generation kit, Lego is at the top of educational, DIY, and plain old fun robot building. MINDSTORMS EV3 is coming, and the robo-geekosphere is buzzing. And whirring.

• • •

Robots in 2014 - AkihabaraNews.com

Contributor Sean P. Bullock is a materials manufacturing professional, robotics nerd-enthusiast, citizen scholar, and manager of the unofficial DARPA Robotics Challenge Facebook page.

• • •

Headless Robot Chasing a Laser Pointer (is so dang cute) - AkihabaraNews.com
We hate to use the word ‘cute’ when discussing robotics, but… Come on now...just have a watch and tell us that ain’t the case. You can’t. Unless you’re mean, uptight, and cold, cold of heart.
ATLAS is Coming for ASIMO - AkihabaraNews.com

Honda bills ASIMO as the world's most advanced humanoid robot, and taken as a whole, it’s probably accurate to say. But an American robot is catching up, and unless Honda’s got some new tricks (ASIMO X?), ATLAS is going to shove ASIMO aside and take his cookies.

Why Does Japan Get Dyson's New 360 Eye Robo-Vacuum First? - AkihabaraNews.com
The steadily plodding iterations of iRobot’s Roomba and its legion of copycats are old hat, and the collective We aren’t really impressed anymore. While the 360 Eye performs the same task, it stands out, and just kinda has that new robot smell. The talking points/broad strokes/things to know are:

Just Saying
Yes, it matters that they're Korean!
...because, of course, AkihabaraNews.com is "Japan & Asia Tech • Cool and Cultural News." So, we saw this cool robot news, could hear in the accent that these researchers are actually from Korea, and boom: justification! (in fact, according to their MIT profiles, they both studied at Yonsei University in Seoul)

Murata Manufacturing recently unveiled a team of 10 robots called the Murata Cheerleaders, which dance in formation while balancing on top of balls.

The Murata Cheerleaders are Murata’s fourth generation of robots, following the bicycle-riding MURATA BOY in 1991, the second MURATA BOY in 2005, and the unicycle-riding MURATA GIRL in 2008. All of these robots incorporate Murata’s proprietary core technology.

Yaskawa Assistive Robots - AkihabaraNews.com

What with the card dealing, cooking, and golfing, Yaskawa Electric’s heavily YouTubed Motoman

HAL Suit Goes German! - AkihabaraNews.com
Tsukuba City-based Cyberdyne, Inc.’s HAL suit has reached a number of milestones this year, and with news last week that the device received third-party approval from Germany-based certification agency TÜV Rheinland, it's time for the cybernetic prosthetic to go international.

Reno J. Tibke - June 07, 2014

JTFF - Japanese Technology from the Future Friday! - AkihabaraNews.com

This week it’s octopedal Japanese electronics conglomerate OMRON getting its

Pages